“Building” Characters?

Hey Folks,

Some writers (and probably all of them/us at first) believe they have to “build” or “create” characters. Some folks even go so far as to create a “character sketch” to one degree or another.

The character sketch might be so detailed as to include the character’s educational background, childhood experiences, and anything else. It’s the story of the character.

Most often, writers who do this begin with a stick figure and then flesh it out. Those writers “assign” various physical, mental and emotional traits and “know” the character thoroughly before they begin writing the story.

Most often, these are the same writers who plot every step of a novel before they ever begin writing.

Of course, there are “hybrid” writers who create and use character sketches but also write without an outline when the time comes.

If either of these is how you write, that’s perfectly fine. Seriously, whatever works for you.

The way I see it, regardless of all the various ways there are to create a story, all writers fall into one of two overall categories:

The Almighty Writer On High — This writer is the god of his fictional world. He dictates (again, to one degree or another) who the characters Are (education, life experiences, etc.) and what the characters say and do. In short, this writer is in complete control of his characters.

This writer also most often dictates plot points, twists and turns, and most often knows what will happen “next” in the story, often all the way to the end. But this topic is about characters.

The Recorder — This writer has ceded control of the story to the characters.

So yes, he is also in charge at first. After all, how can you “cede” control if it isn’t yours to cede?

But this writer’s control ends where the characters’ control begins. Basically, it ends when the writer puts his fingers on the keyboard.

This writer realizes this is not “his” story but the characters’ story. So he chooses to let the characters tell it.

As a result, the characters go where they want, say and do what they want, and pretty much dare the recorder (the writer) to keep up.

After all, he isn’t part of the characters’ world or their story. He simply happened upon some interesting people, thought their story would be interesting, and asked permission to come along for awhile so he could record it.

Fortunately, the characters thought that would be fine.

What ensues from that moment forward is the characters’ story without so much as a single heavy fingerprint of the human “writer” on it.

Maybe the best part of this approach is that the writer learns about the characters as they develop, just as he does with “real” people he meets. The difference is, if he doesn’t like these characters, he can cause them to be killed off without having to endure all the bother of formal charges, a trial, and possible prison time.

Again, whether you choose to be the Almighty Writer on High or The Recorder is strictly up to you. Either way is fine with me. Whatever works.

But just in case you’ve been the former and are interested in trying on the latter, here’s one way (my way) to get there.

Back when I first decided to become the interested but non-controlling Recorder, I envisioned myself on a battlefield of sorts, one with trenches.

The trenches are the story, and that’s where the characters are: down in the story.

When I first started writing, I set myself up in a tower, far distant from the battlefield, and observed the action through a powerful telescope.

I watched what happened, could see what was coming, and anticipated what would happen if this character moved here and that character moved there, and they did and said this or that or the other.

And I directed them.

Now get this — because I’m only human, I was unable to think any thoughts that were different than the thoughts any reader might think if he were standing in the tower with me. So the stories “I” told were not only distant, but boring and predictable.

Later, I realized if I got closer to the battlefield I could see the action in greater detail. But I was still directing the characters and events. The stories improved — they weren’t as distant and  were more detailed — but yeah, they were still ridiculously predictable.

Finally, a couple years ago, for some reason I thought what great fun it might be to get closer still.

I sat down on the edge of a trench and dangled my legs over. Only now I was too close.

I could no longer see an overview. Oh oh.

I could no longer tell what might happen next. And next. And next.

I began to hyperventilate.

The only way to enjoy the tight proximity to the characters AND find out what happened next and next and next was to be in the story itself.

So when a character raced by I yelled, “Hey!”

He stopped and looked back. His brow wrinkled. “Say, you’re not from around here, are you?”

I shook my head. “Nope. But you guys are really interesting to me. I wanna come along.”

He frowned. “But you’re not part of our group.”

“Yeah, I know. But I wanna be.”

He looked at me for a moment. “Hey, aren’t you that guy used to sit up in the tower over there and tell us what to do?”

“Uh, yeah. But see, I—”

He turned away. “Sorry. You can’t. We don’t care for control freaks.”

“But I don’t wanna control anything anymore! It’s YOUR story. I just wanna be in the story with you!”

He turned around again, eyed me. Finally he said, “Well, you can’t be in the story. It’s out story, got it? You’re living your own story out there.

“Tell you what, though, you can come along if you want. You can be our Recorder. Just keep up. Take notes. Write down what happens, what we say and do. That’s as close as we can let you get.

“You’ll be in the thick of it, only you can’t participate. A’right?”

“Deal!” I said. Then I released my grip on all things Writerly and dropped off into the story.

From then on, I’ve only been out of the trenches between stories.

Now I learn who my characters are as they reveal themselves through their actions and words (just like “real” people do) while running through the story. I describe events as they happen. Sometimes I see things coming, but most of the time I’m as surprised as the characters are.

And that tells me the readers will be surprised too.

Oh, and the plot? For that I harken back to Mr. Bradbury: “Plot is only the footprints the characters leave behind as they run through the story.”

‘Til next time, happy writing.
Harvey

What’s Your Incentive?

Hi Folks,

I’ve long needed a specific incentive to do anything, to strive toward any goal, to achieve any level of success.

I love telling stories. But that doesn’t provide me with the appropriate incentive to spend hours in the chair writing.

I’d also love to make a good living with sales of my fiction, but because I’m a realist, that doesn’t provide even the slightest impetus. The fact is, these things take time, and frankly, I’m an old guy. I have better things to do—like write—than check sales figures several times a day.

I also love it when people say nice things about my writing.

Of my very first novel, my very first reviewer said it was “a great story” and “one of the most tightly plotted novels” he’d ever read.

Woohoo! Score! Especially given that I wrote that novel in 20 days, just writing off into the dark. No plotting, no planning. The “plot” was a Bradbury Plot, the one the characters left as they ran through the story.

But what others think or say about my writing doesn’t provide incentive either, or even validation really, because it’s all up to them and their own tastes. It’s outside my control.

Different people need different incentives to write. I get that.

And the same people are affected by different incentives at different times of their life.

I can’t honestly say what my primary incentive might have been had I stumbled across Heinlein’s Rules and the Writing Off Into the Dark technique when I was 20. I like to think it would have remained the same.

That primary incentive is mortality.

For me, it’s all a big, wonderful game. How many stories can I tell before I check out of this particularly odd little hotel? Specifically, how many novel-length stories?

Since I effectively started writing fiction in 2014, for me to spend the “40 years in the business” that professional fiction writer and extremely good instructor Dean Wesley Smith often touts, I’d have to live, actively, until I’m 102.

Yeah, okay. Ain’t gonna happen. Family history, health issues over which I have zero control, yada yada yada plus my own impatience to see what’s next precludes any chance of that.

I just want to turn out as many good stories as I can.

And my secondary incentive? There’s nothing better for me than to be the First Person who gets to be entertained by the stories my characters tell.

That provides a sense of wonder. And although that sense of wonder doesn’t drive me to the keyboard (mortality does that), it does make me look forward to what will happen when I put my fingers on the keyboard.

Which I’m going to do right now.

‘Til next time, happy writing!

Harvey

The Journal, Friday, 6/16

Hey Folks,

I’m adding this note late: I’ve decided to serialize my novella, Jobs Like That, over on the Writing in Public website at http://hstanbrough.com. If you’d like to receive an email each time a new installment is posted, drop by there and sign up for a free subscription. This thing is heavy on detail and grounding the reader in the scene. For genres, it’s heavy on action-adventure with a considerable chunk of romance tossed in.

Wow. When I got up, I started almost immediately working on the Writing in Public website. I enjoy doing that. It’s kind of a hobby. Now if I can figure out the new subscription plugin.

Anyway, I got so wrapped up in doing that, I almost decided this would be a nonwriting day. That will happen before too long, but I’d like to finish the novel first.

***

Sometimes I think I’ll never learn.

Y’know all that guff about the story slowing down, me taking a wrong turn, all of that?

Nope.

I tried to continue the story past the natural ending. That’s all it was. More on that below.

I started cycling through today, just finishing off what I did yesterday, and the ending flashed through, crystal clear. It was as if the characters were lined up in the back of my mind, their hands on their hips, all of them frowing and mouthing, “What are you doing, Harvey? Stop it!”

And here I am with another finished novella. That and a reminder that every book writes differently.

Revising Goals

Another realization came over me this morning. It’s been a day of realizations.

I set a goal at the beginning of the year to write at least one novel per month and to write 15 on the year.

Today that slapped me in the face. Hard.

The thought actually crossed my mind that I should “expand” my current WIP, which finished itself today, so it would be a novel.

But I don’t like that. It adds pressure, and it’s unnecessary. Plus, it would lead me to force something on my characters and my storylines, and I just don’t want to do that.

So I’m revising my goal instead. In fact, I think I mentioned this awhile back, but I’m not sure. Anyway, I’m doing it now.

I will write at least one long work per month (novel or novella) and 15 on the year. What the hey? It’s my goal anyway, right?

Today, and Writing

Worked on the new Writing in Public website for awhile this morning (a few hours). Finally to the Hovel at 8 a.m. and to the novel around 8:30.

So my writing day was over early, at around 11. Then putting the water on the yard, etc.

Back tomorrow.

Of Interest

See “The Magic Bakery: An Epilog” at http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/the-magic-bakery-an-epilog/. And I do recommend checking back and reading the comments on recent earlier posts.

Just as a little addendum to my post a couple days ago on word usage, there’s “The Bell Tolls for ‘Whom’” at http://www.thepassivevoice.com/2017/06/the-bell-tolls-for-whom/. Such fun!

And one more, again via The Passive Voice: “There’s No Such Thing As A Self-Published Author.” Despite her foolish and faulty claim (“The term implies that a person can successfully publish a book all alone, and that’s simply not true.), the author then sets that aside with “Creating a digital book today is rarely done by one person all alone.”

Um, “rarely” is not the same as “never” and it isn’t the same as “can’t.” But if that weren’t enough, the author (Beth Bacon) then dismisses herself as a professional when she writes that “…we perpetuate the myth that one person can do it all by themselves.” I mean, wow. Anyway, you can read the whole thing at http://www.digitalbookworld.com/2017/theres-no-such-thing-as-a-self-published-author/.

Fiction Words: 1378
Nonfiction Words: 400 (Journal)
So total words for the day: 1778

Writing of Jobs Like That (June novella)

Day 1…… 2248 words. Total words to date…… 4925
Day 2…… 0505 words. Total words to date…… 5430
Day 3…… 1204 words. Total words to date…… 6634
Day 4…… 1535 words. Total words to date…… 8169
Day 5…… 2825 words. Total words to date…… 10994
Day 6…… 1631 words. Total words to date…… 12625
Day 7…… 3462 words. Total words to date…… 16087
Day 8…… 1113 words. Total words to date…… 17200
Day 9…… 1378 words. Total words to date…… 18578 (done)

Total fiction words for the month……… 45050
Total fiction words for the year………… 337957
Total nonfiction words for the month… 10850
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 100830
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 438787

The Daily Journal blog streak……………………………………… 568 days
Calendar Year 2017 Novel Goal (15 novels or novellas)………………… 7 novels or novellas
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)………………………………………… 25
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)……………………………………… 4
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)……………………………… 176

The Journal, Wednesday, 6/14

Hey Folks,

I keep feeling like I need to take a day to create covers and promo docs for the last nine short stories I wrote. Then I need to distribute them and ship them off to BundleRabbit.

I’m ever aware that each day I wait is a day that story isn’t able to accumulate sales.

Usually I do all that stuff as I go, often the same day I write the story. But in the frenzy that was my recent writing in public challenge, I let it slip.

And just my mindset, when I get in the mood to create covers, it will be better to do them all one after the other.

So soon I’ll do that. But not today. Today I get to “novel” for awhile. (See the topic below.)

***

In the midst of everything going on — or actually not going on — with Job Corps, I got a Facebook message early this morning with some bad news. One of my heroic uncles (lifelong forest ranger, firefighter and so much more) is fading.

Depending on various factors back there, soon I’ll take a couple days to go see him or to attend the funeral. Part of life and living, but so much of it gets to be a drag after awhile. I know I’m confiding in the choir here.

Topic: Please, Don’t Be Ignorant

Or at least don’t put your ignorance on display.

Ignorance is not a “bad” quality. It just means a lack of knowledge.

But if you choose to be a writer, shouldn’t you at least try to learn everything you can about the language and word usage?

It seems to me we’ve entered an age in which many of us would rather sound cool than illustrate that we aren’t ignorant.

I’m talking about creating nouns of verbs and verbs of nouns and other word-usage anomalies where there’s no reason to. Other than wanting to sound cool.

I don’t mind, really. But it’s still annoying. And disappointing.

When I read the work of a favorite author and see, in narrative, phrases like “should of” instead of “should have” or “should’ve,” it doesn’t completely destroy the reading experience. But it mars it.

When I hear that a writer “journals” when what she means is “writes” or “keeps a journal” or “makes entries in a journal” I want to hurl chunks. I know, I know, but bear with me.

When I hear that someone “journals,” I wonder why nobody “diaries.”

And why doesn’t anyone “novel” or “short story” or “flash fiction” or “poem”?

“I can’t go tonight,” she said. “It would interrupt my journaling.”

Yeah? Well, I can’t go either. It would interrupt my “short storying” and maybe even my “noveling.”

In “Of Interest” today I feature an article by Nate Hoffelder of The Digital Reader.

In his article, he features an infographic that’s titled “The Ultimate Flowchart for Finding Your Next Book.” Perfectly legitimate, that.

But in the title of the article he wrote to showcase the infographic, Nate saw fit to change “Book” to “Read,” as in “The Ultimate Flowchart for Finding Your Next Read.”

Why?

The change doesn’t enhance the meaning of the title. It doesn’t make it more descriptive or more informative.

It only makes me wonder whether the author is actually ignorant, is trying too hard to be innovative, or is just lazy. (Lazy because “read” used as a noun is short for “reading experience,” which of course means “book.”)

I feel the same way when, in a work written for publication, I find “gift” used as a verb in place of the perfectly adequate “give” (or “gifted” for “gave” or “presented”).

And I feel the same way when I hear professionals use “likely” when they mean “probably.” Or when body parts are given human traits (“nose smelled” “legs raced” “eyes looked” “ears heard” etc.).

Contrary to what some folks believe, I don’t go around looking for instances where the writer’s ignorance is on display. I really don’t. Even when I edit.

I just read. Those instances of ignorance on display leap off the page at me and interrupt my reading.

And then I don’t buy anymore of that author’s work.

Food for thought.

Today, and Writing

Spent the first couple hours of the day playing with Facebook and then writing the stuff above. Cross-posted the topic to the ProWriters blog too.

Around 6:30, I went to the Hovel to “novel” for awhile. (This is fun.) As has become my habit in this book, I cycled back first, then wrote about 600 new words in a new chapter. Moving right along.

A good day of writing today. We’ll see what tomorrow brings.

See you then.

Of Interest

See “D2D Partners with Findaway Voices to Provide an Alternative to ACX Starting 7/18/2017” (More Freedom and Control Over Your Audiobooks) at https://draft2digital.com/blog/d2d-partners-with-findaway-voices-to-provide-an-alternative-to-acx-starting-7182017/. Sounds like a really good opportunity.

Take with a grain of salt “Q & A with Peter Stampfel, Submissions Editor of DAW Books” at http://themetropolitan.metrostate.edu/issue/2016/12/005/. (Thanks, Ann!)

See “Infographic: The Ultimate Flowchart for Finding Your Next Read” at https://the-digital-reader.com/2017/06/13/infographic-ultimate-flowchart-finding-next-read/.

“Two Bundles With Two Novels” at http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/two-bundles-with-two-novels/. I have to admit, I’ve bought both of these bundles.

Fiction Words: 3462
Nonfiction Words: 870 (Journal)
So total words for the day: 4332

Writing of June Novel

Day 1…… 2248 words. Total words to date…… 4925
Day 2…… 0505 words. Total words to date…… 5430
Day 3…… 1204 words. Total words to date…… 6634
Day 4…… 1535 words. Total words to date…… 8169
Day 5…… 2825 words. Total words to date…… 10994
Day 6…… 1631 words. Total words to date…… 12625
Day 7…… 3462 words. Total words to date…… 16087

Total fiction words for the month……… 42559
Total fiction words for the year………… 335466
Total nonfiction words for the month… 9800
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 99780
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 435246

The Daily Journal blog streak……………………………………… 566 days
Calendar Year 2017 Novel Goal (15 novels)………………… 5 novels
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)………………………………………… 25
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)……………………………………… 3
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)……………………………… 176

The Journal, Tuesday, 6/13

Hey Folks,

Topic: Foiled, Sort Of, By Technology

Well, I called off the challenge I extended earlier re writing in public. Thus far I haven’t found a WordPress plug-in that will email multiple postings per day from a blog to subscribers. Much less from multiple feeds.

As my friend Robert pointed out awhile back, writing in public is still writing in public even if nobody’s being notified or watching.

And I very much enjoyed my abbreviated effort earlier this month, so I still plan to do it again soon. I’ll keep you posted in case any of you want to follow along.

(If DWS was doing this, I’d follow along avidly, if only to pick up tips on how to do it.)

Anyway, while I was looking for the aforementioned plug-in, I realized the few who signed up have their own websites as well.

From a marketing standpoint — and really, isn’t everything about marketing? — it would be better for them if they post on their own blog so any readers will already be on-site to buy their books.

I know that sounds fickle and maybe a little lazy, but the fewer times a reader has to click to buy your books, the more likely they are to buy.

I hope everybody who’s reading this will dive into a challenge of your own. And if any of you happen to find a plug-in that will do what I outlined above, please share the info.

Today, and Writing

Rolled out at 3:30 this a.m., and probably this is the last time I’m going to mention it.

Most mornings I browse emails and Facebook while waking up with my morning coffee.

Today, like yesterday, was an exception. I worked a bit on the new website from the time I got up. About an hour into that process, I realized it wouldn’t work the way I’d hoped.

At that point I called time of death. I emailed the few participants to let them know and offer some advice, then moved on to other things.

Around 6 I headed out to get the lawnmower. Chores this morning. Cool! Took only an hour to mow front back and west yards.

Now I’m resting up a bit and working on the new website a bit. Just playing, really. Biding my time as we have an appointment around 9:30 and don’t want to start anything serious before then.

After Mona’s doc appointment (she’s better than good, healthy as a healthy horse) I hit WalMart, then bought gas, then a new gas can (the old one is severely cracked, which I found out just after I’d filled it), then home to write.

I was writing along fine from about noon, but then Job Corps called with yet more requirements. Back to hurry up and wait.

And I still have to go back to pick up Mona from work, so I’ll have a better writing day tomorrow.

See you then.

Of Interest

“The Magic Bakery: Last Chapter” at http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/the-magic-bakery-last-chapter/.

Fiction Words: 1631
Nonfiction Words: 510 (Journal)
So total words for the day: 2141

Writing of June Novel

Day 1…… 2248 words. Total words to date…… 4925
Day 2…… 0505 words. Total words to date…… 5430
Day 3…… 1204 words. Total words to date…… 6634
Day 4…… 1535 words. Total words to date…… 8169
Day 5…… 2825 words. Total words to date…… 10994
Day 6…… 1631 words. Total words to date…… 12625

Total fiction words for the month……… 39097
Total fiction words for the year………… 332004
Total nonfiction words for the month… 8930
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 98910
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 430914

The Daily Journal blog streak……………………………………… 565 days
Calendar Year 2017 Novel Goal (15 novels)………………… 5 novels
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)………………………………………… 25
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)……………………………………… 3
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)……………………………… 176

The Journal, Monday, 6/12

Hey Folks,

Kind of a neat post over at Dean’s place today, about domain-name hoarding. I can relate.

I have domain names for all of my personas, some of my pseudonyms and some of my characters, like Wes Crowley. I have domain names for my own name, and also some for business names that I don’t want to risk losing. Go figure.

Just yesterday, as an afterthought, I looked up WritingInPublic.com.

Of course, it was already taken. It won’t make money for me anyway, so I didn’t bother finding out who owns it so I could make an offer to buy it.

But I suspect it’s Dean. (grin)

Today, and Writing

Rolled out at 4 again. Started working on the new Writing in Public website and did that for the first 3+ hours.

Moved out to the Hovel around 8:30 and started on the novel. Some cycling back and a lot of new words. Around 10, up to the house for some iced tea.

Not a bad day of writing, but not great. Still, I’ll take it.

Back tomorrow.

Of Interest

“Amazon Releases Word Doc Templates…” at https://the-digital-reader.com/2017/06/09/amazon-releases-word-doc-templates-making-better-pod-books/.

“Amazon Overhauls its Publishing Portal…” at https://the-digital-reader.com/2017/06/09/amazon-overhauls-publishing-portal-new-dashboard/.

Both of those are at The Digital Reader. If you don’t already subscribe, consider it at https://the-digital-reader.com/.

Dean’s “Domain Collecting” is interesting at http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/domain-collecting/.

And just in case you’re interested, “Bob Dylan Rescues Literature From The Literary Set” at http://thefederalist.com/2017/06/12/bob-dylan-rescues-literature-literary-set/.

Fiction Words: 2825
Nonfiction Words: 240 (Journal)
So total words for the day: 3065

Writing of June Novel

Day 1…… 2248 words. Total words to date…… 4925
Day 2…… 0505 words. Total words to date…… 5430
Day 3…… 1204 words. Total words to date…… 6634
Day 4…… 1535 words. Total words to date…… 8169
Day 5…… 2825 words. Total words to date…… 10994

Total fiction words for the month……… 37466
Total fiction words for the year………… 330373
Total nonfiction words for the month… 8420
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 98400
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 428773

The Daily Journal blog streak……………………………………… 564 days
Calendar Year 2017 Novel Goal (15 novels)………………… 5 novels
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)………………………………………… 25
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)……………………………………… 3
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)……………………………… 176

The Journal, Sunday, 6/11

Hey Folks,

Wow. Already had a few writers sign up for the upcoming Writing in Public Challenge. I was pleasantly surprised. Excellent.

Once I get the site put together, I’ll send out an email with log-in specifics, etc. If you’re interested, I recommend emailing me fairly soon.

There’s still room if anyone else wants to jump in. Remember, how you structure your own challenge will be completely up to you. The only requirement is that you post things so readers can read.

I also had an email asking whether it’s all right to share the invitation with a writers’ group or critique group.

Sorry, but no. Everyone’s welcome to follow along. It’s “writing in public,” after all. But please don’t share the invitation to participate.

However, if you want to share the invitation with a friend who’s also avid regarding the craft (so a pro or wants to be a pro), that’s fine.

For example, DWS doesn’t subscribe to this Journal. But if he emailed me and wanted to post his own challenge from my site, of course I’d sign him up.

Anyone can set a goal and embark on a challenge of this kind at any time on their own, and I encourage them to do so. But I have to limit participation on the website.

A Thought on Writers’ Groups

First, a disclaimer: Whatever works for you is fine. Hey, you gotta do what you gotta do.

My personal take on writers’ groups (critique groups, etc.) is this:

I would kill, maybe literally, to meet regularly with a group of other professional writers and aspirants.

In that sort of “group,” the attendees would strive to contribute new information on what works and doesn’t work for them in the business and-or craft of writing.

Those are extremely rare because most pro writers and serious aspirants would rather stay home and write. That’s why I follow sites like those of DWS and Kris Rusch and J Conrath and Kevin Tumlinson and Robert J. McCarter and others.

Then there’s the TYPICAL writers’ group, of which there are hundreds.

In those, would-be writers gather, maybe share a meal, and listen to a speaker present a program during which he or she spouts the same tired old clichés regarding writing.

Uhh, No.

Today, and Writing

Rolled out late at just before 4. That was annoying, because I was wide awake at 2:30, but opted to sleep-in. Time is so precious, and I just tossed half a handful of it overboard.

I wrote all the stuff above and listened to the podcast mentioned in “Of Interest” below. I hope to write sometime today, but it’s Sunday. Maybe a lazy Sunday.

Moved out to the Hovel at around 10. I started working on the novel again, and noticed there was another short story in it.

I copied and pasted the excerpt to a new file, wrote a new opening (398 words) and now I have a new stand-alone short story. I love when that happens.

During the interim, my son left, headed north again, and before that he lost a screw out of his glasses. I had some extras, so I fixed them for him.

Around 1 or so I moved back to the house to write a little more on the novel. But it’s definitely a lazy Sunday.

Back tomorrow.

Of Interest

See Dean’s “A Couple of Fun Things” at http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/a-couple-of-fun-things/. If you don’t, you’ll miss a couple of important links. (grin)

Check Kevin Tumlinson’s site at http://kevintumlinson.com/. Check his Blog. Check his Podcasts. A lot of good stuff on his site. The segment with Dean begins at about 10 minutes into the WordsLinger podcast.

Fiction Words: 1933
Nonfiction Words: 600 (Journal)
So total words for the day: 2533

Writing of “The Fight” (short story, derived from the novel)

Day 1…… 0398 words. Total words to date…… 2701 (done)

Writing of June Novel

Day 1…… 2248 words. Total words to date…… 4925
Day 2…… 0505 words. Total words to date…… 5430
Day 3…… 1204 words. Total words to date…… 6634
Day 4…… 1535 words. Total words to date…… 8169

Total fiction words for the month……… 34641
Total fiction words for the year………… 327548
Total nonfiction words for the month… 8180
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 98160
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 425708

The Daily Journal blog streak……………………………………… 563 days
Calendar Year 2017 Novel Goal (15 novels)………………… 5 novels
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)………………………………………… 25
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)……………………………………… 3
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)……………………………… 176

The Journal, Saturday, 6/10

Hey Folks,

Yesterday I outlined how “writing in public” positively affected my writing. This morning, I had an exciting idea.

You already know I’m preparing a website for my next Writing in Public challenge. It should be good to go before July rolls in.

Those who are interested in reading stories or novels as they develop will subscribe. Then each post will be emailed to them as it’s posted.

I’ve decided to open that challenge to a few other writers. Here’s the nutshell:

  • Basically, you can write whatever you like and post as often as you like.
  • You’ll have your own log-in information and complete control over your part of the site.
  • The parameters of your challenge are completely up to you.
  • The one requirement is that you write “in public.” (Duh. Otherwise it would defeat the purpose of the site.)

If any of you would like to participate, email me to let me know and we’ll work out the details: harveystanbrough@gmail.com.

***

I mentioned yesterday that Bryan’s back in wait and see mode with Job Corps. We hope to hear something on Monday.

Topic: Story Starters (and some ways to come up with them)

(Note: This is excerpted from a post I wrote yesterday as an article for a regional writers’ group publication and for the Pro Writers blog. But it won’t post over there until early 2018. I didn’t include this topic in today’s nonfiction word count.)

There are two ways to start a story: with a story starter or with a story idea. Those are not quite the same thing, though they can be.

What I call a “story starter” is a seed, period.

It might be a line of dialogue or narrative that pops into your head. It might be you asking yourself “What if?”

It might be a philosophical thought or a photograph or event and the feeling or thought it evokes.

It might also be a story IDEA, the skeleton for the opening of your story.

The story idea is simpler to define. It’s a character with a problem in a setting. (The problem doesn’t have to be “the” conflict problem of the story.)

The story idea, if it occurs to you whole, can also be a story starter.

But the sole purpose of both the story starter and the story idea is to get you to the keyboard.

Or put in a slightly different way, the sole purpose of both the story starter and the story idea is to cause you to sit down, right now, put your fingers on the keyboard, and start typing.

So how do you come up with story starters?

The typical professional fiction writer would say, “How do you not?” But here are some specific ways that have worked for me.

First, prepare.

Open a new blank document or flip open your notebook and pull out a pen. I use Notepad. Don’t worry about formatting. It isn’t important right now.

Keep that document open on part of your computer screen (or on your lap). Then, in any order,

Browse Photos

Begin looking at photos one at a time.

These can be photos you took, photos you acquired from a stock agency, public domain photos or even photos you see in magazines, on Facebook or wherever.

If you choose a “found” photo — one other than your own or other than those you acquired from a stock agency — you can’t use it for a cover. But you can use it for whatever thought it evokes in your mind. The thought, not the photo, will become part of the actual publication.

Look at the photo and write down the first line that springs to mind. It might be narrative or dialogue. It might be a philosophical thought. That’s a story starter.

If nothing comes to mind, don’t dwell. Set it aside and move on to the next one.

Events

Whether recalling a memory or witnessing a live event, write down the first line that springs to mind. That’s a story starter.

Other Stories and Articles

Read. If you’re a writer, chances are you read.
Often a line from another story or novel will grab me. And often that becomes the basis for my own story or novel. (No, this isn’t plagiarism.)

Sometimes too, comments in a nonfiction article or a description in a travel article will move something in me. And become the basis for a story or novel.

You get the idea. Just read. And keep your pen and paper handy.

Titles

Sometimes a title will pop into my head. I have zero idea what the story will be, but I know what it will be about. Maybe even the general direction it will take.

DWS has a voluminous collection of old stories and novels. From those he makes lists of “half-titles.” He writes the first half of a title on one list and the last half on another.

When he’s stuck for a story starter, he’ll browse the list of half-titles, crash two of them together to form a new title, and start writing.

Most of us don’t own a large collection. But you can still go to your local bookstore (or Amazon) and browse titles, right?

You can even lift whole titles if you want (I don’t recommend this), as long as they aren’t trademarked. Titles can’t be copyrighted individually.

That’s just a few ways to come up with story starters. Once you get in the habit of exercising your idea muscle, you’ll come up with many more on your own.

In short, if you want to write, you can write.

1. Get an idea.
2. Sit down with your fingers on the keyboard.
3. Write whatever comes. Don’t edit. Don’t “fix.” Don’t think. Just write.
4. DON’T intentionally write sloppy copy. That’s bad training.

It really is that easy and that difficult. If you haven’t tried this yet, you’ll be amazed at how much fun you’ll have.

Today, and Writing

Rolled out just before 2 a.m. My son drove down from Flagstaff. He got here just before I got up, and went to bed soon after.

I wrote on the novel for a little while, then got caught up in the day and visiting.

Back tomorrow.

Of Interest

Dean has a pretty informative post over at http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/writing-a-novel-in-five-days-while-traveling-turned-in/, especially if you missed his posts on the topic. (He links to them and the resulting novel.)

I posted a few pics of a big range fire (the Dragoon Fire) near here on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/harvey.stanbrough.

Fiction Words: 1204
Nonfiction Words: 310 (Journal)
So total words for the day: 1514

Writing of June Novel

Day 1…… 2248 words. Total words to date…… 4925
Day 2…… 0505 words. Total words to date…… 5430
Day 3…… 1204 words. Total words to date…… XXXXX

Total fiction words for the month……… 32708
Total fiction words for the year………… 325615
Total nonfiction words for the month… 7580
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 97560
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 423175

The Daily Journal blog streak……………………………………… 562 days
Calendar Year 2017 Novel Goal (15 novels)………………… 5 novels
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)………………………………………… 25
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)……………………………………… 3
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)……………………………… 175

The Journal, Thursday, 6/8

Hey Folks,

First, before I forget, awhile back the editor of a magazine in Mexico asked me to write a short story for her magazine.

I did and submitted it.

She loved it and asked permission to translate it. Of course, I said yes.

If you’re interested, here’s the link to the story in Spanish in the magazine EstePaís:

http://www.estepais.com/articulo.php?id=1057&t=ila-y-el-pinonero

I’d be happy to send a copy of the English original to anyone who wants it. Now, too, I can finally self-publish it. (grin)

A little personal stuff…

Well, my life roll is coming down to the end.

It will be a tense couple of days as we await some records from Indiana (supposedly mailed last week on Tuesday) and Roswell NM. Those will determine, in large part, my grandson’s future.

As an action-oriented kind of guy, I feel a little helpless when things are completely outside of my control. Especially when bureacrats are involved.

When I think of what set this excellent 22 year old boy on this path, and especially when I consider what kept him on this path — being prescribed drugs he didn’t need and those drugs creating the symptoms they were supposed to alleviate — I just wanna chew wheels and spit nails. In particular directions.

But as with all things in life, it simply is what it is and we’ll deal with it.

In the meantime, for now, we wait and hope Job Corps will happen for him.

Now to the escape of writing for awhile.

Topic: Day 8 of the Challenge

Overall, this challenge hasn’t been difficult at all. It hasn’t been easy — a challenge shouldn’t be easy — but it hasn’t been difficult either.

In fact, whether or not the life roll intervenes and ends the challenge prematurely, I will do this again, complete with the writing-in-public part.

The challenge thus far has been a matter of

1. Coming up with a story starter (for me that’s usually a line of descriptive or philosophical narrative or a line of dialogue);
2. dropping a character with a problem related to that line into a setting;
3. and writing. Oh, and every now and then,
4. telling my critical voice to sit down and shut up.

That fourth one is a matter of patience and persistence.

If a story beginning (opening) is boring me to death, I trash it and either move on to the next story starter (I’ve done that twice) or I start over.

More often, my critical voice tells me (on an opening that isn’t boring me) “this is not good” etc.

To overcome that, in every case, I remind myself that I won’t personally like every story I write. But that has no bearing on whether another reader will or won’t like it.

So I persist, follow it through to the end, and publish it.

And invariably, some reader pops up out of nowhere and tells me how wonderful is the story that I thought sucked canal water from all 50 states. (grin)

That’s some great validation and reinforcement for shutting out the critical voice. Just sayin’.

Today, and Writing

Rolled out just before 4. Spent the first hour-plus fully awake, sipping coffee and reading some great stuff, most of which I shared below in “Of Interest.”

Around 7 I sat down at my office desk and began writing.

Around 8:30 I moved to the Hovel.

With a couple of breaks, by 11 I had 2800 words on the story. No end in sight. (grin)

I wrote some more, then went to the PO to check for some records that were allegedly mailed from Indianapolis on May 30. Unfortunately, they still haven’t arrived.

Long talk with my wife and then my grandson. Around 2, finally back to the short story.

With everything going on, I forgot to post the new scenes after scene 2. I finished the story around 3.

Nothing on the novel again today.

Back tomorrow.

Of Interest

Some very good comments at Dean’s http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/a-bunch-of-things/#comments.

Also see Robert J McCarter’s posts on his challenge at http://robertjmccarter.com/2017/05/sswm-introduction/.

I’ve also added Mr. McCarter’s category “Short Story Marathon” to Writers’ Resources on my site, or you can see it at http://robertjmccarter.com/category/story-marathon/.

See “10 Tools That Help Me Sell More Ebooks” at https://www.kseniaanske.com/blog/2017/6/4/10-tools-that-help-me-sell-more-books/.

Fiction Words: 4507
Nonfiction Words: 720 (Journal)
So total words for the day: 5227

Writing of “Adele and the Makers” (Story 8 for June)

Day 1…… 4507 words. Total words to date…… 4507 (done)

Writing of June Novel

Day 1…… 2248 words. Total words to date…… 4925
Day 2…… 0505 words. Total words to date…… 5430
Day 3…… XXXX words. Total words to date…… XXXXX

Total fiction words for the month……… 31504
Total fiction words for the year………… 324411
Total nonfiction words for the month… 5560
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 95540
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 419951

The Daily Journal blog streak……………………………………… 560 days
Calendar Year 2017 Novel Goal (15 novels)………………… 5 novels
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)………………………………………… 25
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)……………………………………… 3
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)……………………………… 175

The Journal, Wednesday, 6/7

Hey Folks,

Not a lot to report today.

Topic: Day 7 of the Challenge

Well, the challenge is rolling along. I feel like I’m settling into this thing.

By that I mean I’m not frantic, “worrying” about coming up with story ideas, etc.

The conscious, critical mind repeatedly attacks in various ways. But once I recognize it for what it is and set it aside, I’m able to get back to writing.

Today’s story went really well and really quickly. In a little over 2 hours of writing time, I hit the end at something over 2700 words.

Today, and Writing

Rolled out at 3 and spent the first few hours doing nothing but Facebook and email stuff. Put on a load of laundry (the first of two) and headed to the Hovel around 6:30.

Finally around 7:20 I started the story for the day. It’s a gangster thing from the gangster’s POV. Interesting.

With a couple of breaks to check and fold and put away laundry, I finished the story at around 11:30 and posted the whole thing (two very long scenes) to The June Challenge page on my website.

Off for a bit to change gears, and I hope to add some to the novel today.

Nothing on the novel again today. Job Corps and other stuff on my mind.

Back tomorrow.

Of Interest

You might get something out of “When I Worked in Advertising” at http://www.thepassivevoice.com/2017/06/when-i-worked-in-advertising/. I stopped reading at “In one of the 16 or so drafts of my new book,…”

Fiction Words: 2738
Nonfiction Words: 260 (Journal)
So total words for the day: 2998

Writing of “What Happened That Day” (Story 7 for June)

Day 1…… 2738 words. Total words to date…… 2738 (done)

Writing of June Novel

Day 1…… 2248 words. Total words to date…… 4925
Day 2…… 0505 words. Total words to date…… 5430
Day 3…… XXXX words. Total words to date…… XXXXX

Total fiction words for the month……… 26997
Total fiction words for the year………… 319904
Total nonfiction words for the month… 4840
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 94820
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 414724

The Daily Journal blog streak……………………………………… 559 days
Calendar Year 2017 Novel Goal (15 novels)………………… 5 novels
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)………………………………………… 25
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)……………………………………… 3
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)……………………………… 174